British Ambassador Outlines How Brexit Negotiations Will Likely Unfold
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
For more now on the United Kingdom's move to leave the European Union, we are joined by British Ambassador Kim Darroch. Welcome to the program.
KIM DARROCH: Thank you very much for inviting me.
SHAPIRO: So Prime Minister May says leaving the European Union will create a stronger Britain. How, in your view, does ending this relationship make Britain stronger?
DARROCH: Well, here's two answers to that. The first is that, as the prime minister set out, the objective is a deep and special partnership with the European Union both on security and economic issues and as part of that, a new and comprehensive free trade agreement. But alongside that, we want to develop and forge new trading relationships, new free trade agreements with a number of our friends and partners around the world. So as a country that has always believed in open markets and free trade, this is an opportunity for us.
SHAPIRO: You're talking about negotiating better deals, but European leaders insist they will not give the U.K. a better deal than it has today because to do so would encourage other European countries to leave the Union. So what incentive would the EU have to agree to the kind of favorable deal you're talking about?
DARROCH: We're the sixth biggest economy in the world, major players as members of the U.N. Security Council, so we bring quite a lot to the table. I mean, we're going into negotiations, so you'd expect both sides to set up positions in the beginning. But there was a big benefit for our European friends to have continuing free access to the British market on a reciprocal basis with us, of course, enjoying continued access to the European market.
SHAPIRO: Of course, your main focus as ambassador to the United States is the U.S.-U.K. relationship. And the U.K. cannot sign a trade deal with U.S. until the Brexit process is complete two years from now. What kinds of talks are going on right now to lay the groundwork for that?
DARROCH: We're at a very early stage. The prime minister was over, as you know, a week after inauguration. She had an extremely good meeting with the president. Following on from that, the France secretary was here last week. So I wouldn't say we're yet into talking about the specifics of a future trade deal, but we will get into private preparations for future trade arrangements in due course.
SHAPIRO: As we just heard from Frank Langfitt, Scotland has of course decided to hold another referendum on whether to leave the United Kingdom. Scots overwhelmingly wanted to remain in the European Union. Do you think Scotland is now on its way out?
DARROCH: No. Union is very important to all of us. Prime minister was very clear in parliament today but also in her meeting a couple of days ago with the first minister of Scotland that this is not the time for a second independence referendum in Scotland, and that's the government's position.
SHAPIRO: As an ambassador, it's your job to reach across national boundaries, strengthen diplomatic ties. You represented the British government in the European Union. Do you find that these developments make it more difficult for people in positions such as yours to argue for international cooperation?
DARROCH: I think the future that the prime minister sketched out is an exciting one. The U.K., which has always been open and outward looking, can maintain a very strong relationship with Europe but a lot of - strengthen relationships with the rest of the world. I think that's a very exciting prospect.
SHAPIRO: I'm struck by your use of the word exciting. A rollercoaster can be exciting. A lot of really terrifying chaotic things can be exciting.
DARROCH: Well, I do think my 30-odd years of experience as a foreign service officer - things tend not to go in straight lines or exactly as you planned them. So, yes, I'm sure there are going to be some ups and downs over the next couple of years. But it's an extraordinary - I hate to use the word again - exciting to be part of that. And I really look forward with great anticipation for the future.
SHAPIRO: Ultimately, I hear you saying it's important to us to have good relationships with Europe on trade and security. It's important to us that Scotland stay in the United Kingdom. It's important to us that we have a good relationship with the United States. But I don't hear a lot of specific plans for how to ensure that those things happen.
DARROCH: Well, on the relationship with the European Union, we have set out in the prime minister's letter to Donald Tusk means - it's broad terms, but it's quite a clear negotiating approach with some very clear objectives. We are clear about the future of the relationship that we want with the U.S. So we know the direction we're going on.
Now, you know, there are negotiating partners we have to work with, and they will have their own views, which is why I predict it won't be absolutely straight forward, won't be absolute plain sailing. But we've been very clear about what we're looking for and about what the objective is. And I think that clarity should be helpful to all of those we're going to work with in the future. And I think it's a reason to be optimistic that we can achieve our objectives.
SHAPIRO: Kim Darroch is the British ambassador to the U.S. and joined us from the ambassador's residence here in Washington D.C. Thanks very much for your time.
DARROCH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.